The Day Itself
On the day itself it was sunny again. January was well on its way and, still, there was no sign of winter. It was warm in the morning sun. I put my table and chair outside and had breakfast on the terrace. The winds had cleaned the horizon. The coastline of Sicily appeared in full gloom and Mount Etna rose majestically above it, even more beautiful now that the top was covered by snow.
An hour later I took my backpack and started my walk uphill to the village. It is a walk passing onion fields, a farmer’s house and an almond tree in full bloom, between walls of reed and at the side of a large road that after a couple of curves ends at the village. There is nothing special about the little town. No tourist would take up residency here. No house seemed to be finished and no house seemed to be the same. Some of the older houses made of sandstone still stood, but you could see how the weather and vegetation slowly made them crumble. It would be a lovely place if you’d tear down a couple of buildings and liberated the view. The volcanic island Stromboli was just behind an ugly apartment block. I needed to go to the post office. I walked right in front of the oldest bar in town and noticed how the old lady of the bar leant forward from her chair and waved her hand to say hello. It was an invitation, of course.
The first time I entered the post office I looked in wonder at all the bullet proof glass, the double door with the space in between that served to hand over bigger parcels. I asked myself why this was needed in such a small, apparently sleepy village. But this thinking didn’t need much time. Most of Calabria’s youth would leave their hometown, go north or abroad to find a better future. There were not many opportunities here, not for work, not for hanging out. The strongest subculture was that of crime. The post office held the bank and it was the place where the older inhabitants collected their monthly state pension. People came to pay the bills. I had learned pretty fast that the best hour to arrive was shortly before closing time to avoid endless waiting. The bullet proof glass was needed to protect the safe. The wild west was invented here, in Calabria.
No postman would find the place where I lived. And that was okay by me. I got two huge envelopes from Canada and a smaller one from Ravenna in Italy. I gave a smaller packet in return, destination the state of New Jersey in the US. I did my shopping at Gianni’s small supermarket on the square. With my backpack filled and an extra plastic bag full of vegetables I crossed the street to the bar. It is a bar like I think a bar should be, where it is clear to see that nothing has changed over the last forty years. Well the lady of the bar, now in her eighties, must have changed over those years. We talked about the weather just as long as I needed to finish my coffee, and so I heard temperature had reached 23ºC last weekend.
On my way back I kept my eyes on the Gulf of Gioia in front of me, the street of Messina that divided the main land from Sicily. The Sun had changed a big surface of the sea into a plate of sparkling silver. A car stopped beside me. It was C. He offered me a ride. He talked about the weather, the nice days we were having. But he announced the arrival of winter. A massive front would bring in the cold directly from Siberia. People in the north were alerted; it would be harsh up-there in the mountains. We would be okay, temperatures would drop to 5ºC in daytime, like last year. He advised me to prepare myself, get some wood. I assured him that I was okay.